Saban looking ahead to scrimmage

For those of you holding your breath about the quarterback race, LSU head coach Nick Saban finally said he and his staff will begin the process of determining who the No. 2 quarterbacks will be the for the Tigers in 2004.

There is little doubt about the top spot. Senior Marcus Randall has proven that he will be LSU's starting signal caller when the Tigers take the field for the season opener against Oregon State on Sept.4. But the big debate for the last (really) six months has been will the second string job be assumed by which redshirt freshman, JaMarcus Russell or Matt Flynn?

While we feel after watching practice for the first two-plus weeks of fall camp that Russell is the odds-on favorite to grab the No. 2 spot, Saban said Saturday it will come down to the performance in Tuesday's upcoming scrimmage.

"We have been impressed by all three guys," Saban said. "But we have to make a decision soon and make one guy the two. Somebody has got to get the reps in and some game experience. We don't want the first game to be a tryout. We want our number two guys to get some playing time in the first game. That is why we are using these scrimmages."

Saban said he also would be looking at some other position in Tuesday's upcoming scrimmage including offensive guard and wide receiver. At guard, Will Arnold and Rudy Niswanger have been running with the ones and the left and right spots respectively.

If you want to read as much into this as possible, Will Arnold did not take part in last week's scrimmage due to a mild concussion. However, the next day, even though he was in a red jersey, he was running with the ones. What does that mean? Well, Saban answered that question on Saturday.

"We need to solidify whose doing what, where and whose playing the best and hopefully some (guards) will rise up," Saban said. "We have certain people who have played in that position that we need to do a better job."

Again, what does this mean? Being that Terrell McGill reported out of shape, that statement was directed partly at him as well as starting right guard Rudy Niswanger, who is currently slotted at the right guard position. Saban said neither guard spot is solidified so that will be one of the more interesting positions to watch over the next two weeks.

Saban added wide receiver would be a primary focus in the upcoming scrimmage as he will try and sift through the truckload of talent he has log jammed at that position.

"We have to establish the starters ate wide receiver," Saban said. "And then from there we have to figure out who will be the third, fourth and fifth."

Our best guess? We feel Dwayne Bowe and Skyler Green are no doubt the top picks for one and two. Toss in a mixture of Amp Hill, Craig Davis and Early Doucet for the third and fourth jobs and follow that up with Xavier Carter, Lavelle Hawkins and Gino Giambelluca for the remainder of the reps.

Defensively, Saban has his sights still firmly on the Sam linebacker position. E.J. Kuale is still the favorite to start on Sept. 4, but Saban has stressed that he has struggled learning all of the schemes and techniques. Of course, we will keep an eye on that.

Also, Saban alluded to the fact players will be jockeying for position on the depth chart, in terms of positioning for the second and third string roles at almost every position on the defense.

In other news, linebacker Darius Ingram has left the team. While there may be some truth behind the fact the linebacker cabin is getting awfully crowded with newcomers Tim Washington, Ali Highsmith and Kuale, Saban said Ingram left the team due to family reasons.

"He is very close to his family and this is the best move for him," Saban said.

The Tenaha, Texas native was highly regarded out of high school and was in the three-deep depth chart.

Ingram's attrition left the door open for Greg Hercules to re-join the 105-man roster. Hercules left the team in the spring due to an intestinal virus. With Ingram's departure, it opened up a spot for Hercules to come back to the program. However, Hercules will not receive Ingram's scholarship.

"We have two scholarships to offer," Saban said. "Those are the ones left vacant by Barrington Edwards and Darius Ingram. We will evaluate the roster and award these scholarships to players who have contributed most to the team and has been in the program for at least two years."

Saban also congratulated Baton Rouge native Carly Patterson for winning the gold medal in the gymnastics all-around competition at the Summer Olympics in Athens. Saban felt the need to congratulate Patterson due to the fact the last American woman to win the all-around was Mary Lou Retton in 1984, a native of Saban's hometown of Fairmont, West Virginia.

"It is kind of ironic," Saban said. "The last woman to win the all-round was Mary Lou Retton from hometown in West Virginia. And now, the next woman to do so is from the city I now live in. Now whether I have anything to do with that, I don't know."

Jokingly, a reporter asked Saban who is the most famous person from Fairmont, West Virginia. The old ball coach just laughed.

"I don't think there is any question it is Mary Lou Retton," Saban smiled.

The Tigers return to the practice field for a 7:30 p.m. workout this evening.

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